How can we smoothly move in with my mom with babies of our own?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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"We're Moving!"
We're moving back home, and this time with kids! (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.)
My husband, my two kids, and I are getting ready to move back into my childhood home. We'll be living in the upstairs, and my mom will be living in the downstairs. We will have a shared kitchen, but that will be the only shared room.

We're so excited to get into a larger, safer, cheaper living situation, but there are some worries about moving back in with my mom… mostly for my husband.

Have any of you guys had to making the "moving in with the in-laws" change? Are there any specific questions or clarifications we could all get down before the move that might help down the road?Jernni

We've talked about living in multi-generational homes before. But let's talk about exactly how to make that transition.

  1. We had a similar discussion with my mom and step-father recently. Although we're not done figuring things out, I think my step father had a good starter idea: Live as though you were living apart. Meaning proximity is not an excuse to drop in anytime or being invasive of your family intimity. If you and your mother both need to put some limits to your new arrangement, maybe asking yourself "Would I do this if she was living in an other house?" before taking action is a good place to start. 🙂

  2. Having lived with my in-laws for 8 months at one point i have to say my biggest pieces of advice are
    1) Lay out rules right now, i know it's you parents but you will find that they may quickly revert back to "i'm the mom (dad) and you're the child so when i say do the dishes I expect them done" mode and thats a hard transistion for 2 grown adults (you guys) to take on without clear parameters going in.
    2)Understand that since it's your family it's going to be harder for your husband. When I lived with my inlaws my husband couldn't understand all the issues I had with adjusting. what he didn't realize was theat I hadn't grown up there, I didn't know where the dirty laundry was kept or how long I could leave a magazine on the table before his mom would throw it away, I wasn't used to his parents being up at 3 am watching TV but he was, there will simply be more for him to adjust to
    3)Set up money issues ahead of time, when we moved in we knew we would be paying X-amount in rent but what we didn't know was that they expected us to pay for part of the water bill, internet, cable and at one point all utilites while they were on vacation for 2 months, those costs hit us big-time at a time where we weren't at our financial fittest.
    4)Expect to get a lot of comentary on your parenting. Like any visit with your parents you expect a bit of feedback on your family choices, it just happens. Now you live with them, plan ahead of time how you as a couple will deal with other's input on things like bed time and discipline. When I'm in my own house it doesn't matter if I've had to give my son 3 time outs in a row, when I'm at my in-laws my mother-in-law will basically cry at the thought of punishing our kids, so you may find issues like those come up when you can't just get through a 2-hour visit and be done with it.

    I know i'm making it sound like it sucks, it really didn't!, there are a ton of benifts to living with family. It's just there are a ton of work-arounds as well, Good luck!

    • Agreed, though I haven't had the experience while also raising my own kids, so that adds a whole other element to the situation. My husband and I lived with my parents for almost two years just after we were married, mostly as we were just getting out of grad school and hadn't found secure, reasonably-paying jobs yet. Thankfully, my parents didn't charge rent per-se, but we did what we could to help out around the house and help with bills, groceries, that sort of thing.

      I think it was harder for my husband, sort of like what Jessiann88 said, since he had to learn a lot of little things like where to find certain pans and utensils if he wanted to cook/where to put things away if he emptied the dishwasher, for example. Some aspects of their lifestyle are different from ours, like their tendency to keep the television on all evening long. These things took a bit of time for my husband to get used to, but overall, I really don't think he was miserable by any means while we lived there. As much as they could, my parents treated us like adults and respected the fact that we would make our own plans and come and go on our own schedule. We just would give them a heads-up about things, mostly because we still tried to cook and eat dinner as a family as much as possible.

      It's not for everyone, but I don't regret the time we spent with my parents at all. Had we been stubborn and tried to get an apartment when we had no money to speak of, we would have been starving and seriously struggling. Instead, we had an opportunity to get to know my parents as adults, more like roommates and equals, in a way. It's hard to explain, but it did a lot for the development of our adult relationship, and I miss the company now that we have moved two hours away (husband got a fantastic job in a place we love). Sure, my parents drove me crazy at times, but it was great to have that time with them.

  3. Right now, my husband and I are living with his mom, us downstairs and her upstairs, which makes it much easier than when I first moved in and we were all living in the same small area downstairs. Like those above, I also had, and still have, the same difficulties as described above–I didn't know how anything worked, and I didn't know where anything was. It was honestly a frustrating situation, and my husband didn't really understand because "I could just ask someone if I had any questions." It's easy for my husband to forget how many things go into the functionings of a house when he's lived here his whole life.

    In your case, I would try thinking of as many of your childhood home functions as you can to tell your husband before you move in. Think about noise levels allowed at night, the laundry/dryer schedule (when is it okay to use them and how quickly do the clothes need to be taken out once each cycle is done), the dishes schedule, the expected cleanliness level, etc. Think about every room and what is allowed, what isn't allowed, where things go, and so on. If at all possible, I'd even try visiting there more frequently. Also, remember to be forgiving and understanding when your husband doesn't know something that is obvious to you.

    My husband and I also have plans for my parents to eventually move in with us, so I can also suggest the need for rules. My husband and I are trying to make our household increasingly environmentally friendly (minimal waste, composting, recycling, no chemical cleaners or detergents, etc) whereas my parents really don't live that way. Once the house is given to us (in a couple years probably), we're also going to really push for more organization in places like the garage, which is completely overtaken by his mom's stuff who hates dealing with anything that makes her stressed (meaning the mess has been there for a decade). Once he and I have kids, we also know that we are not okay with our parents disciplining our children (except in rare circumstances) or purchasing them many toys, especially plastic ones or gender-specific ones. However, my parents are the kind of people who won't understand why we wouldn't want them to help with discipline and his mom won't understand why she isn't allowed to buy items for her grandchild(ren). Frustrations could easily arise with these sorts of changes and expectations as they infringe on the immediate comfort and easy life of others, so we need to begin having conversations now about expectations and such.

    Start talking with your parents about what they expect from you guys and also what you expect from them. Remember that as adults, you are allowed your own expectations. There might be some contrasting ideas discovered just from that conversation. Think back to the last time you lived with them and talk with them about any different ways you live now. With having kids, I would definitely suggest having this be a big topic when you speak about your expectations of them. If you're raising your child with a specific belief that your parents don't share and you don't want your parents sharing their belief with their grandchildren, that needs to be known. If you disciple differently from your parents, that needs to be known. Basically, try to not let any big thing be a surprise after you've moved in and it's harder to resolve issues.

    A last piece of advice: When thinking about what expectations you have of them and while communicating these expectations to them, try to not think about this as you moving back in with your parents. Treat them almost like strangers. Your parents should do the same to you. That way, you get the benefit of being with family without being affected by the idea that they're the parents and you're the child. You're both adults with equal needs and unique ways of living that will have to combine in one household. This will be an easier process if, as you're moving into someone else's territory, you aren't also their child (which unfortunately has the connotation of your voice not being as equal as theirs as the parent).

    • Great advice. We too will eventually take over the whole house, and in a few years when we're ready, buy it. My mom will likely live with us for 1-3 years. I will love the drop in rate, the split utilities etc. My mom is VERY good at treating me like an adult, and we have a very close relationship.

      I think laying down the RULES before we move in is going to be mandatory…

      I also really like the idea of Laundry schedule and other expectations being laid out before the move in. I know my mom HATES when I leave something in the washer overnight, my hubby doesn't necessarily know that. GREAT IDEAS!

  4. My sister and her family have lived with me on 4 separate occasions, 2 long-term ( > 1 year ) and 2 short-term. Each time my sister and I had a blow-out fight right after move-in. So my advice is this: accept the conflict.

    Accept the fact that conflict is coming so when it invariably arrives you can move through it quicker. I think recognizing that the difficult moment is upon you before you insert foot into mouth is key. Knowing it's coming means I'm not surprised, that I can say to myself, "Oh yeah, we're here again. I know what to do".

    Also this way I can stock up. Maybe a second can of pepper spray. Maybe some brass knuckles. Whatever's on sale that week. 😉

  5. My parents, older sister & brother in law, and hubby and I (now including our now 4 year old) have rotated living with each other over the course of the last decade. It has enabled easier selling of homes, cross country moves, and in the case of my sister and brother in law, a spot for them to store stuff when they weren't sure if they were going to do more out of country volunteer work again.

    The main gist is what others have said, set rules early on. In the case of both my parents and sister, we've always pretended we lived in a duplex with people we actually liked most of the time.

    Heres the tips that helped us:
    -Costs should be discussed up front to avoid confusion. This means discussing nitty gritty of if one party has a larger section of the house they should pay more rent. Etc.
    -Shared areas, like laundry had a schedule. Emergency use could be given as long as you asked permission.
    -If you had a houseguest they used your bathroom, or one in the shared space only.
    -If sharing a kitchen, decide if you're going to share meals. If so, what days? And if not, a cooking schedule is vital. Also in our case we agreed ahead of time to share specific dishes, but we each had our own snack cupboards and some of our favorite utensils. Also, we often had a general rule that if you prepped dishwasher, someone else had to empty it.
    -Make sure you know who is cleaning which shared spaces.
    -If you have kids, where do toys purchased by the other party live. In our case, anything my parents bought my daughter stayed in thier area because she already had her own toys.
    -Again, with kids. Decide on a reasonable schedule for the kid to be expected to be 'home'.

    -Finally, and most sanity saving. Discuss up front how long the arrangement will last, and on what terms it can be terminated (Out of state job offer).

    Good luck!

  6. My partner and I have been living with his parents for about 6 months now with our baby who is now almost a year. I second what people say about negotiating ahead of time re: finances and space. But things are never going to be final and there is a lot of negotiation. I actually think that things are harder for him, because he's dealing with emotional issues and negotiations where as I'm dealing with less of them.

    We have clearly delineated separate spaces. We do go into each other's space, but its clear who owns and manages what space. (well the laundry room is shared and they have to pass through our kitchen to get there). We don't exactly treat it like seperate houses, we treat it like the house of our family so I'll freely borrow vanilla, or use on of their bathrooms if ours is busy, and we'll sneak upstairs late at night to watch their HBO.

    We have really different ways of living though. Like we don't have a TV in our area which is inconcevable to them, and maybe watch 4 or 5 hours a week, wheras they have two tvs which are on all the time. We also eat really different food. We really need two separate kitchens because of the different food (ie. we eat spices, they eat 1950s american style food), because she keeps sorta kinda kosher (i could learn to keep kosher, but not sorta kinda kosher) and we have different cleanlyness standards. There was a bit of a power struggle at first, I had to sort of assert my rights to re-decorate by painting the main room blue and white as opposed to the awful cream/beige colour that it had been before, and we had to clear out all their junk that was here. They were kind of unsure about me painting but I just did it, and its helped establish the space as mine.

    I am finding it great though. They can do childcare in tiny little amounts that are perfectly timed, like if i'm making dinner …

    .oh my baby is just getting up from her nap i'll write more later. summary: a bit difficult but awesome. they are so happy, and i have help, and the baby gets to be around more people she loves everyday

    • I can understand how not having clear rules in this regard would make it hard to follow, but what do you mean by "sorta kinda kosher"? I'm Jewish, but you can pry my bacon cheeseburgers out of my cold dead hands, so I'm always fascinated by how other people treat the rules of what's okay and what's not.

      • My father in law is really, really Athiest, but also really really Jewish (is from the Soviet Union, parents and probably grandparents were communists of some kind, I dunno he doesn't really talk about it). My mother in law was raised conservative but no one really taught her how to do household things like cooking, let alone kosher. So basically its Kosher style, there are separate dishes for dairy for meat, but because they aren't following a bunch of other rules things get mixed often and then she just feels really anxious and doesn't know what to do (because she doesn't know the rules for re-koshering/throwing out stuff) so she just ignores it and feels bad. So for example the other night I went upstairs for dinner (i usually cook my own dinner) and she served me chicken soup with a bun, with butter. I didn't really notice that the butter was on a separate plate because i was like "ok butter" and didn't think anything of it, but about halfway through eating I realize that there's a reason the bun is on a separate plate, and that the soup spoon has now touched the diary plate. I don't admit to this (she wouldn't re-kosher or throw out the plates she would just be upset and not know what to do and put them back into circulation, as i've seen happen before), but point out that theres a reason that you're supposed to not eat meat and dairy at the same time as it causes confusion. And shes like "well it doesn't matter for you, you're a goy" which is true, but i'm also in their house and not supposed to mix the plates up which is really difficult if food is being served at the same time. Also, she serves pepperoni pizza at her house but only on paper plates and is extremely anxious lest it touch anything else. So basically it just causes more anxiety and stress than actually keeping a proper kosher, or even kosher-style kitchen, would bring. Also, they eat bacon but only if they are eating out.

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